Difference between revisions of "California Proposition 36, Changes in the "Three Strikes" Law (2012)"

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Revision as of 17:39, 3 November 2012

Proposition 36
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Type:State statute
Referred by:Petition signatures
Topic:Law enforcement
Status:On the ballot
Proposition 36, a Change in the "Three Strikes Law" Initiative, is on the November 6, 2012 ballot as an initiated state statute.[1]

If approved, Proposition 36 will modify elements of California's "Three Strikes" Law, approved by the state's voters in 1994. In 2004, voters rejected Proposition 66, which like the 2012 measure was an attempt to change some aspects of the original "Three Strikes" Law.

Proposition 36, specifically, will if enacted:

  • Revise the three strikes law to impose life sentence only when the new felony conviction is "serious or violent".
  • Authorize re-sentencing for offenders currently serving life sentences if their third strike conviction was not serious or violent and if the judge determines that the re-sentence does not pose unreasonable risk to public safety.
  • Continue to impose a life sentence penalty if the third strike conviction was for "certain non-serious, non-violent sex or drug offenses or involved firearm possession".
  • Maintain the life sentence penalty for felons with "non-serious, non-violent third strike if prior convictions were for rape, murder, or child molestation."

If Proposition 36 is approved by voters, approximately 3,000 convicted felons who are currently serving life terms under the Three Strikes law, whose third strike conviction was for a nonviolent crime, will be able to petition the court for a new, reduced, sentence.[2] Reducing the sentences of these current prisoners could result in saving the state somewhere between $150 to $200 million a year.[3]

Altogether, about 8,800 prisoners are currently serving life terms in California prisons under the 1994 law.[4]

24 states have a "Three Strikes"-type law.[4]

Election results

See also: 2012 ballot measure election results

LIVE election results will be posted when polls close on November 6, 2012 and when numbers start to roll in.

California Proposition 36
Result not yet known  

Text of measure

See also: Complete text of Proposition 36 and Ballot titles, summaries and fiscal statements for California's 2012 ballot propositions


Three Strikes Law. Repeat Felony Offenders. Penalties. Initiative Statute.

Note: The original title given to Proposition 36 by election officials during the petition circulation stage was, "Three Strikes Law. Sentencing for Repeat Felony Offenders. Initiative Statute."


The state's official voter guide includes two summaries for each statewide ballot measure. One summary, in bullet-point format, appears in the long-form description of each measure. A shorter form of the summary appears on the ballot label in the front of the voter guide, where there is a short description of each measure.

The long-form summary for Proposition 36 says:

  • Revises three strikes law to impose life sentence only when new felony conviction is serious or violent.
  • Authorizes re-sentencing for offenders currently serving life sentences if third strike conviction was not serious or violent and judge determines sentence does not pose unreasonable risk to public safety.
  • Continues to impose life sentence penalty if third strike conviction was for certain nonserious, nonviolent sex or drug offenses or involved firearm possession.
  • Maintains life sentence penalty for felons with nonserious, non-violent third strike if prior convictions were for rape, murder, or child molestation.

The short-form (ballot label) summary for Proposition 36 says:

"Revises law to impose life sentence only when new felony conviction is serious or violent. May authorize re-sentencing if third strike conviction was not serious or violent."

Fiscal impact

See also: Fiscal impact statements for California's 2012 ballot propositions

(This is a summary of the initiative's estimated "fiscal impact on state and local government" prepared by the California Legislative Analyst's Office and the Director of Finance.)[5]

  • State savings related to prison and parole operations of $70 million annually on an ongoing basis, with even higher savings—up to $90 million annually—over the next couple of decades. These estimates could be higher or lower by tens of millions of dollars depending on future state actions.
  • One-time state and county costs of a few million dollars over the next couple of years for court activities related to the resentencing of certain offenders.


Logo for the "Yes on 36" campaign


The arguments in favor of Proposition 36 in the state's official voter guide were submitted by:

  • Steve Cooley. Cooley is the District Attorney for Los Angeles County.
  • George Gascon. Gascon is the District Attorney for San Francisco.
  • David Mills. Mills is a professor at Stanford Law School.[3]
  • Jeffrey F. Rosen. Rosen is the District Attorney for Santa Clara County.
  • Charlie Beck. Beck is the Chief of Police of the City of Los Angeles.

Other supporters include:

  • The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.[3]
  • Dan Newman, who filed the language for the initiative. He says, "I think we will end up having a broad, bipartisan coalition this time. We will not allow this campaign to be pigeonholed, as past efforts [to change the law] have been. This will include law enforcement, Democrats, Republicans, civil right leaders and taxpayer advocates."[3]
  • Mike Romano, a Stanford University law professor who founded the "Three Strikes Project" in 2006. He says, "nonviolent third-strikers are the least likely to re-offend of any group in prison" and that offenders "will have to go before a judge and show they are not a danger to the community before their sentence can be reduced by one day".[3]
  • Geri Silva of "Families Against California's Three Strikes". Silva supports the 2012 initiative but believes it does not go far enough: "We're happy to have this initiative, but why should you get eight years for a petty theft. Hell no. We have got to stop compromising."[2]

Arguments in favor

The arguments presented in favor of Proposition 36 in the state's official voter guide include:

  • It will "make the punishment fit the crime"; specifically, "Precious financial and law enforcement resources should not be improperly diverted to impose life sentences for some non-violent offenses. Prop. 36 will assure that violent repeat offenders are punished and not released early.
  • It will "save California over $100 million every year"; specifically, "Taxpayers could save over $100 million per year—money that can be used to fund schools, fight crime and reduce the state’s deficit. The Three Strikes law will continue to punish dangerous career criminals who commit serious violent crimes—keeping them off the streets for 25 years to life."
  • It will "make room in prison for dangerous felons"; specifically, "Prop. 36 will help stop clogging overcrowded prisons with non-violent offenders, so we have room to keep violent felons off the streets."
  • It has the support of law enforcement: "Prosecutors, judges and police officers support Prop. 36 because Prop. 36 helps ensure that prisons can keep dangerous criminals behind bars for life. Prop. 36 will keep dangerous criminals off the streets."
  • It has taxpayer support: "Prop. 36 could save $100 million every year. Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform says, 'The Three Strikes Reform Act is tough on crime without being tough on taxpayers. It will put a stop to needlessly wasting hundreds of millions in taxpayers’ hard-earned money, while protecting people from violent crime.' The California State Auditor projects that taxpayers will pay millions to house and pay health care costs for non-violent Three Strikes inmates if the law is not changed. Prop. 36 will save taxpayers’ money."
  • "Criminal justice experts and law enforcement leaders carefully crafted Prop. 36 so that truly dangerous criminals will receive no benefits whatsoever from the reform. Repeat criminals will get life in prison for serious or violent third strike crimes. Repeat offenders of non-violent crimes will get more than double the ordinary sentence. Any defendant who has ever been convicted of an extremely violent crime—such as rape, murder, or child molestation—will receive a 25 to life sentence, no matter how minor their third strike offense."
  • "With the passage of Prop. 36, California will retain the toughest recidivist Three Strikes law in the country but will be fairer by emphasizing proportionality in sentencing and will provide for more evenhanded application of this important law."

Other arguments in favor of Proposition 36 include:

  • "A life sentence for petty theft or drug possession is excessive."[4]


Total campaign cash Invest.png
as of November 3, 2012
Category:Ballot measure endorsements Support: $2,700,000
Circle thumbs down.png Opposition: $119,900

The leading donor to Proposition 36 is George Soros. The second leading donor is David Mills, a professor at Stanford University.[7]

The donors listed in the chart below are the $20,000 and over donors to the "Yes on 36" campaign as of Saturday, November 3, 2012. Note that some of these donors gave their money to a committee that is simultaneously supporting or opposing more than one of the ballot propositions on the November 6, 2012, ballot. When that is the case, it is not generally possible to break down how much of that donor's money specifically was spent on the campaign for a particular proposition. Those contributions are listed below with shading; readers should not assume that all or even most of a donation to a multi-purpose committee will be used for expenditures related to this particular proposition.

Donor Amount
George Soros $1,000,000
David Mills $953,000
NAACP Legal Defense Fund $175,000
Peter Ackerman $100,000
California State Council of Service Employees (SEIU) $75,272
National Education Association $60,025
BISC $54,721
James S. Regan $50,000
Peter Briger, Jr. $50,000
California Teachers Association $50,000
Working Families Issues Committee (AFL-CIO) $22,500


Logo for the "No on 36" campaign


  • Mike Reynolds, who wrote the language for California's "Three Strikes" Law. He says, "Once someone has been convicted of two serious or violent offences, I suggest it's pretty clear what they are capable of. If this passes, we are likely to see property crimes going up all over the state, and in very short order."[3]

The arguments against Proposition 36 in the state's official voter guide were submitted by:

  • Keith Royal. Royal, a sheriff, is the president of the California State Sheriff’s Association.
  • Carl Adams. Adams, a District Attorney, is the president of the California District Attorneys Association.
  • Harriet Salerno. Salerno is the president of Crime Victims United of California.
  • Rick Braziel. Braziel, a police chief, is the president of the California Peace Officers Association.
  • Henry Nicholas. Nicholas is the author of California’s Victims Bill of Rights.
  • Christine Ward. Ward is the executive director of the Crime Victims Action Alliance.

Arguments against

The arguments in opposition to Proposition 36 presented in the state's official voter guide include:

  • "In 1994 voters overwhelmingly passed the Three Strikes law — a law that increased prison sentences for repeat felons. And it worked! Almost immediately, our state’s crime rate plummeted and has remained low, even during the current recession. The reason is pretty simple. The same criminals were committing most of the crime—cycling through our courts and jails—over and over again."
  • "In 2004, the ACLU and other opponents of tough criminal laws tried to change Three Strikes. The voters said NO. Now they are back again with Proposition 36. They couldn’t fool us last time and they won’t fool us this time. Just like before, Proposition 36 allows dangerous criminals to get their prison sentence REDUCED and then RELEASED FROM PRISON!"
  • "So who does Proposition 36 apply to? Criminals so dangerous to society that a District Attorney chose to charge them with a Three Strike offense; Criminals so dangerous that a Judge agreed with DA’s decision to charge; Criminals so dangerous that a jury convicted them of that offense; Criminals so dangerous that a Judge imposed a 25-to-life prison sentence; and Criminals whose legal appeals were denied. After all that, Proposition 36 would let those same criminals ask a DIFFERENT Judge to set them free. Worse yet, some of these criminals will be released from prison WITHOUT PAROLE OR ANY SUPERVISION!"
  • "Here’s what the Independent Legislative Analyst says about the early release of some prisoners under Proposition 36: 'Some of them could be released from prison without community supervision.'"
  • "What do you think these newly released hardened criminals will do once they get out of prison? We already know the answer to that: They will commit more crimes, harm or kill more innocent victims, and ultimately end up right where they are today—back in prison. All of this will cost taxpayers more than keeping them behind bars right where they belong."
  • "At the time Three Strikes was approved by the voters, some thought it might be too harsh or too costly. Voters rejected that view in 2004. But even if you believe that the Thee Strikes law should be reformed, Proposition 36 is not the answer. Any change to the sentencing laws should only apply to future crimes committed—it should not apply to criminals already behind bars—cutting their sentences short. It is simply not fair to the victims of crime to have to relive the pain of resentencing and early release of these dangerous criminals."

Other arguments against Proposition 36 include:

  • California saw a 37% drop in crime n the first four years after implementing "Three Strikes".[4]
  • "If criminals are on the street, especially repeat offenders, what are they going to be doing?"[4]
  • "While all states have seen drops [in crime], none have as much as in California."[4]


Total campaign cash Invest.png
as of November 3, 2012
Category:Ballot measure endorsements Support: $2,700,000
Circle thumbs down.png Opposition: $119,900

These are the $10,000 and over donors to the "No on Proposition 36" campaign as of Saturday, November 3, 2012:

Donor Amount
Peace Officers Research Association PAC $100,000
San Manuel Band of Mission Indians $10,000

Editorial opinion

See also: Endorsements of California ballot measures, 2012

"Yes on 36"

2012 propositions
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June 5
Proposition 28
Proposition 29
November 6
Proposition 30
Proposition 31
Proposition 32
Proposition 33
Proposition 34
Proposition 35
Proposition 36
Proposition 37
Proposition 38
Proposition 39
Proposition 40
EndorsementsFull text
Ballot titlesFiscal impact
Local measures
  • The Bay Area Reporter: "This measure provides that a life sentence on the third strike could be imposed only for a serious or violent felony. Currently, untold numbers of inmates whose third strike was for non-violent drug possession are serving life sentences. This is a waste of money. Our priorities as a society are backward when we spend increasing amounts of money on incarceration and less and less on education."[9]
  • The Contra Costa Times: "This would fix some of the flaws in the Three-Strikes Law that have caused overcrowding in our state's prisons and jails. No one wants violent criminals back on the streets, and Proposition 36 doesn't do that."[10]
  • The Daily Democrat (Woodland, California): "This initiative would modify the state's 'three-strikes' law to limit excessive and unjustified punishments and ensure punishments are applied equally."[11]
  • The Fresno Bee: "Opponents say the Three Strikes law has led to the drop in the crime rate, and we agree that it is one of the many reasons for reduced crime. But this adjustment in the Three Strikes law makes sense."[12]
  • The Lompoc Record: "A major flaw in the existing three-strikes law is that some people are given life behind bars for low-level third-strike felonies, which tends to fill prisons with three-strikers who aren’t necessarily a threat to society. Prop. 36 doesn’t let those third-strike criminals completely off the hook. A non-violent third strike would earn a sentence twice what such an offense would normally draw — while saving taxpayers an estimated $100 million over the next decade."[13]
  • The Long Beach Press-Telegram: "Not only does this change make the punishment fit the crime, it would make Three Strikes uniform throughout the state."[14]
  • The Los Angeles Daily News: "It's unfortunate that any inmate must be released early. But as long as that's the order of the high court, it should be done fairly, sensibly and cost-effectively. That's not happening now. Make Three Strikes better and vote for Prop. 36."[15]
  • The Los Angeles Times: "Proposition 36 would create a level playing field and reserve harsh penalties only for dangerous criminals."[16]
  • The Marin Independent Journal: "The proposition makes sure the law targets the worst criminals by imposing a life sentence only when the new conviction is 'serious or violent' or involved firearm possession."[17]
  • The Merced Sun-Star: "Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, the Republican candidate for attorney general in 2010 and hardly a bleeding heart, is one of its main backers."[18]
  • The Modesto Bee:[19]
  • The North County Times: "The plain truth is that our prison system is broken. Given the state's financial straits, the only realistic way to restore it to health is to reduce the load on it."[20]
  • The Orange County Register: "For, while Californians continue to support three strikes, which mandates a prison sentence of 25 years to life for offenders convicted of a third 'strike,' many who otherwise support the law are concerned that a nonserious, nonviolent third conviction potentially can send an offender away for the rest of his life. Proposition 36, the Three-Strikes Reform Act, would address that concern by revising the 18-year-old law to impose a 25-to-life sentence only when the third strike is violent or otherwise serious."[21]
  • The Press-Enterprise: "Prop. 36 would set a more coherent approach to crime without letting criminals escape justice. California should punish crimes — but that effort needs to be fair and sensible as well as tough-minded."[22]
  • The Sacramento Bee: "Proposition 36 would sand down some of the law's rough edges and ensure that it is applied equally across all 58 counties, but leave the law's strong heart in place."[23]
  • The San Bernardino Sun: "The original law said a third strike could be a petty theft or a drug possession. The result was to fill up the jails with people who had stolen socks or fallen off the wagon of their 12-step program. That is not what voters intended, and should be fixed. Prop. 36 would do that by requiring that the third strike be serious or violent - unless the first convictions were for rape, murder or child molestation. Things won't change for the state's most violent predators."[24]
  • The San Francisco Bay Guardian: "On Nov. 4, 1995, a small-time criminal named Leando Andrada stole $150 worth of videotapes from K-Mart. The father of three was charged with felony theft — and since he'd had prior convictions for burglary and marijuana transportation, his conviction led to a sentence of 25 years to life. That's nuts — but it's the result of a very bad 1994 law that has made California one of the harshest states in the nation for repeat offenders — and has overcrowded the state prisons and cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars."[26]
  • The San Francisco Chronicle: "There was a problem with this state's version of three strikes that has led to gross injustices as well as a huge waste of taxpayer money. Unlike in other states, the third felony conviction - or strike, triggering a sentence of 25 years to life - does not need to be a serious or violent offense."[27]
  • The San Gabriel Valley Tribune: "The voters absolutely did the right thing when they approved the measure back in 1994. Three Strikes has been a huge factor in helping reduce violent crime in California, but it had unintended consequences and it needs improvement."[28]
  • The Santa Cruz Sentinel: "We choose to believe that voters who support the original intention of three strikes realize locking up drug addicts for life because they are repeat offenders is both unfair and costly. Some 40 percent of third-strike prisoners in our state are nonviolent offenders."[30]

"No on 36"

  • The Redding Record Searchlight: "As crime is already rising, Proposition 36 would only put the law-abiding at further risk."[31]
  • The Ventura County Star: "Proposition 36...favors criminals over crime victims. Proposition 36 would allow about 3,000 third-strikers to seek resentencing by a judge if their third strike was not a serious or violent offense, thus reducing prison costs, proponents of the measure say. What they aren't telling voters is that the majority of these three-strikers are career criminals, who once freed from prison will likely commit new crimes. When arrested, they will again clog an overburdened court system, offsetting any saving as cities and counties, many dealing with shrinking budgets, will be forced to retry them."[32]

Polling information

See also: Polls, 2012 ballot measures

A USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll was conducted from September 17-23, 2012.[33]

Date of Poll Pollster In favor Opposed Undecided Number polled
September 17-23, 2012 USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times 66% 20% 14% 1,504
October 7-9, 2012 SurveyUSA 44% 22% 34% 700
October 7-10, 2012 California Business Roundtable 72.0% 17.1% 10.9% 830
October 15-21 USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times 63% 22% 15% 1,504
October 21-28, 2012 California Business Roundtable 67.4% 22.0% 10.6% 2,115

Path to the ballot

See also: California signature requirements
See also: California ballot initiative petition signature costs

External links

Suggest a link

Basic information:




  1. Mercury News, "Food labeling, 3-strikes join crowded Nov. ballot", June 11, 2012
  2. 2.0 2.1 89.3 KPCC, "New battle over 3 Strikes law looms", December 16, 2011
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 San Francisco Chronicle, "'3 strikes': Proposed law tries to restore intent", November 28, 2011
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Stanford Daily, "Three Strikes Project drafts ballot initiative", November 29, 2011
  5. Los Angeles Times, "Plan to change three-strikes law moves toward November ballot", January 3, 2012
  6. Walnut Patch, "Democratic Party Picks State Ballot Measures to Support", July 30, 2012
  7. Hawaii's News Daily, "Soros Gives Big Bucks for California Three Strikes Reform Measure", January 17, 2012
  8. Walnut Creek Patch, "California Republicans Oppose Proposed Tax Measures", August 12, 2012
  9. Bay Area Reporter, "Editorial: State ballot measures", September 20, 2012
  10. Contra Costa Times, "Summary of our endorsements on state propositions", September 22, 2012
  11. Daily Democrat, "Democrat endorsements: Propositions", October 14, 2012
  12. [http://www.fresnobee.com/2012/10/07/3018954/editorial-prop-36-changes-needed.html Fresno Bee EDITORIAL: Three Strikes changes under Prop. 36 needed", October 8, 2012]
  13. Lompoc Record, "Big changes for crime, punishment", October 12, 2012
  14. Long Beach Press Telegram, "Endorsement: Yes on Prop. 36 -- Make Three Strikes better and streets safer with this sensible measure", October 4, 2012
  15. Los Angeles Daily News, "Endorsement: Yes on Prop. 36 -- Make Three Strikes better and streets safer with this sensible measure", October 4, 2012
  16. Los Angeles Times, "Yes on Proposition 36", September 20, 2012
  17. Marin Independent Journal, "Editorial: IJ's endorsements for state Propositions 34-37", October 12, 2012
  18. Merced Sun-Star, "Fair penalties with Prop. 36", October 12, 2012
  19. Modesto Bee, "Prop. 36 would bring fairness to ‘three strikes’ law", October 15, 2012
  20. North County Times, "Yes on 36", September 21, 2012
  21. Orange County Register, "Editorial: Yes on Prop. 36, revising '3 strikes'", October 4, 2012
  22. Press-Enterprise, "Yes on 36", October 4, 2012
  23. "Sacramento Bee", "Endorsements: Yes on Prop. 36, a modest fix for three-strikes law", October 4, 2012
  24. San Bernardino Sun, "Prop. 36 is an improvement to Three Strikes", October 4, 2012
  25. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Yes on Prop. 36: A welcome change to ‘three strikes’", September 30, 2012
  26. San Francisco Bay Guardian, "Endorsements 2012: State ballot measures", October 3, 2012
  27. San Francisco Chronicle, "Editorial: Chronicle recommends", October 5, 2012
  28. San Gabriel Valley Tribune, "Prop. 36: A better Three Strikes law", October 4, 2012
  29. San Jose Mercury News, "Summary of our endorsements on state propositions", September 22, 2012
  30. Santa Cruz Sentinel, "Editorial: Yes on 36: Measure would modify Three Strikes law while still protecting public safety", October 2, 2012
  31. Redding Record Searchlight, "Editorial: Now is no time to pull the teeth of 'three strikes'", September 21, 2012
  32. Ventura County Star, "Editorial: Don't weaken three-strikes law; No on 36", September 14, 2012
  33. Los Angeles Times, "Californians back change on three strikes, but not on death penalty", September 30, 2012
  34. Contra Costa Times, "Three-strikes law alterations likely to qualify for November ballot", April 30, 2012